From Agra, Jesse and I traveled back to New Delhi on the train. I have to say, I absolutely love riding the trains in India. The first time we showed up to Howrah train station in Kolkata, I was nervous, anxious that we wouldn’t be able to find our train, about the conditions of it, and the fact that there are hundreds and hundreds of people on the floors and platforms did not ease my uncertainty! But luckily there is always the helpful person, and we figured out how to find the platform we needed, our train car and our seats. We usually rode on the AC2 tier trains, which was incredibly comfortable and a much better choice than taking buses (like we did all over Thailand!). A 20-hour train ride seemed like a breeze! The Indian Railway gives you sheets, a pillow, a blanket, and a never-ending choice of food walking by during your ride. Jesse and I just laid back, read our books, caught up on sleep, and drank more little cups of chai than we should have!
In any case, we took a short train ride back to New Delhi, where we spent five days in the Paharganj neighborhood. Jesse read somewhere that the holy men of India feel that Paharganj is the equivalent to hell. In some ways, I can see where they are coming from. It’s not that it’s dangerous, it’s that most tourists to Delhi flock to this area, and in turn, the touts and hustlers and money-hungry businessmen follow. There is shop after shop selling New Age tie dye wear, those big round bags with the Om symbols on them, leather shoes, big jewelry, and all sorts of knick-knacks that you can bring home to your families! It’s not unlike Waikiki, I suppose. But regardless, this place was central and there were lots of accommodation options.
One of our days in Delhi brought us to the Baha’i Temple. It’s a gorgeous lotus-shaped temple, and hundreds of people come to visit each day. Wikipedia even claims that it is one of the most visited buildings in the world (but I am guessing that’s relative…there are a lot of visited buildings on this Earth…). They let visitors into the sanctuary on the condition that you don’t take pictures and you maintain complete silence. It was a very cool experience to sit down in silence with a hundred or so other people and just soak in the positive energy and beautiful architecture.
After Delhi, we took an overnight train to Lucknow! The main reason for even visiting Lucknow was that it was a halfway point between Delhi and Kolkata (our final destination). A 38-hour train ride straight to Kolkata did not sound appealing to us. We arrived in Lucknow at 4am. After finding some rickshaw drivers who knew where our hotel was, we pulled up to find the gates closed and the lights off (not surprising!). Our two drivers got out and helped Jesse wake up one of the guards, who thankfully let us in and called the boss-man. Having obviously just been woken up, this manager was incredibly kind and let us check into our room at 4:30am.
It was then that I realized, there was something a little different about the people in Lucknow…from the taxi drivers helping us to the manager and staff of our hotel seemingly nonplussed at our far too early arrival, it seemed that these people were genuine and truly wanted to help us. I’m not saying there aren’t people like that in the other cities we visited, but throughout our whole time in Lucknow not one person interacted with us based solely on money. In fact, walking through the beautifully green, lush city, Jesse and I felt like aliens! People would just stop and stare in disbelief that two westerners were strolling through town. It was the perfect city to end our time in India (and not even because there was an delicious bakery down the road from our hotel).
After hopping a train to Kolkata and a plane back to Thailand, we are comfortably settled into our guest house in Bangkok for the next few days. We decided to cut our trip to India short, but fear not – we will be back. There is much too much to see still. In Bangkok we are planning our 26-day to Burma! On October 8 we fly into Yangon, and from there starts our adventure in which I’m not too sure what to expect. Although I can probably guarantee there will be some stomach issues 🙂